Learning to Think Like a Teacher: Reflective Journals for Legal Educators

Gerald F. Hess, Learning to Think Like a Teacher: Reflective Journals for Legal Educators, 38 Gonz. L. Rev. 129 (2003).

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My commitment to keep a teaching journals was not the result of extensive research or reflective thought. It arose in an unguarded moment in a public setting when my mouth moved faster than my brain. Fortunately, that impulsive moment led to a habit that benefits my professional and personal life as well as my students’ learning.

It happened like this. On a beautiful autumn afternoon at the Sleeping Lady retreat center in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, I was co-facilitating a workshop on teaching for a group of legal educators. We were discussing the use of writing as a vehicle for active learning. The participants, clinical teachers from the Northwest, enthusiastically endorsed the idea of requiring students in clinics to keep journals about their work. The long list of impressive benefits of journal writing for students included promoting self-awareness and reflection, enhancing learning from experience, releasing stress, and developing lifelong self-directed learning habits. I asked the participants whether they had used journal assignments with law students. All twenty-five teachers raised their hands. It struck me that journal writing could have tremendous advantages for teachers, so I also asked how many of the participants kept a journal about their teaching. Only one participant raised her hand. I said to the participants that I would commit, right then, to keep a teaching journal for the next few months.

Those words left my mouth three years ago. I had no prior experience with journal writing and had done no research on reflective practice at that time. I just bought a journal and started to write. Through the simple process of writing in my journal twice a week I have experienced the advantages of journal writing described by the participants and many other benefits as well.

This Article is built on the extensive literature about reflective journals and my experience writing a teaching journal. Part I addresses the role of reflection in the education of professionals, including teachers. Part II focuses on reflective journals as devices for the professional development of teachers. Finally, Part III contains recommendations for law teachers who want to enhance their teaching by keeping a reflective journal…Read More

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